Blended-Family Holiday Mania: How I'm Guarding My Sanity

How to combine different families for one holiday.

blended family holiday chaos pixelshot, vorDa | Canva

There's a good chance that whoever paraphrased Honest Abe by saying “You can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot please all the people all the time" was facing holiday planning with a large family. And if they hadn't, I think I'd have to coin the phrase myself this year. When I got married I knew we were combining two families, and I knew that blending holiday traditions would be challenging, but I completely underestimated how challenging.


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What nobody told me is that two sets of divorced parents, a total of four siblings with their own set of in-laws, and nine children would add up to a completely unmanageable set of holiday expectations. And this isn't even factoring in our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…oh, my.

I've heard people joking self-deprecatingly about their celebrations resembling the Griswolds, and let me just say now, if the worst thing you have to deal with is a septic tank explosion and a squirrel in your tree, I'll trade places with you in a blink of Rudolph's nose.


As the oldest child married to the oldest child, I feel a lot of responsibility when it comes to holiday planning, but when I sat down to try to draft a holiday schedule, I came this close to running away to Aruba. 

The requirements for fitting in all necessary celebrations were absolutely mind-boggling. One sister-in-law always does brunch with her family. The other always does dinner. This relative isn't speaking to that one, and every single one of us has children with nap schedules to consider.

Holy eggnog, Santa. I think it may be easier to get a room full of Occupy Wall Street protesters to have a peaceful dinner with Mitt Romney and Donald Trump than it would be to coordinate holiday celebrations for my family. Please tell me this sounds at least a little familiar. 

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About the third time I ran to my husband ready to flee the country until January, he asked me what our holiday priorities were. When I started to run through the schematics of who we needed to see but couldn't attend such and such event, he stopped me.

"The most important family for us to spend time with this Christmas is ours, babe," he said. "You, me, and the kids. Let everyone else make their own decisions." And just like that, he gave me exactly what I needed. A little dose of perspective and a good tweaking of my priorities. (I love that man.)

Without consulting anyone else or their schedules, I sent out an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner. I welcomed those who were able to attend, and we missed those who weren't. We did the same thing for Christmas. We set an open invitation for brunch and agreed that we would be available for one dinner.

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Despite our best intentions, my social calendar this week is slightly intimidating. With the exception of the two Christmas meals, I've tried to limit us to one event a day — two only if they could accommodate my children's nap times.

Divorced couples have been expected to shelve their differences until post-holiday, and his family and mine are going to have to overlap a bit if they want to see us.

I know this is easier said than done, but we made the decision to claim joy for our holiday and to focus on making the entire season special for our children. Our calendar is packed, but manageable. We're doing everything we can to avoid stress.

While there is a long list of people we really want to spend time with, the ones that we really have the responsibility to provide with special memories are our children. We're going to choose the things that are going to mean the most to them, and we're going to make the sometimes difficult decision to say no to everything else. I'm sure this won't be a popular decision, and it isn't one that will work for everyone, but it was necessary for my sanity.


Wish me luck.

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Collen Meeks is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, family, and motherhood.